George Mason University introduced new men’s basketball coach Kim English at an enthusiastic press conference Thursday at EagleBank Arena, with the 32-year-old hire touting the program as a prospective “incubator for the best talent in the country.”
“We’re slap dab in the middle of the most fertile recruiting in the world,” the high-energy English, a Baltimore native, said to a socially distanced crowd of Mason supporters, including several current and former players.
“It’s already a national brand,” added English, the 11th head coach in program history. “Everyone knows George Mason. Everyone. It’s going to become a global brand—recruit kids from all over the world to come to this place and do something special.”
Since joining the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2013, Mason has never reached the men’s basketball semifinals. Even so, English said he sees more opportunity than challenge in Fairfax. Hired Tuesday, he said he has received calls from prospective transfers from the nation’s top basketball conferences. He also intends to hire an assistant who specializes in international recruiting.
A second-round pick of the Detroit Pistons after starring at the University of Missouri on four NCAA tournament-qualifying teams, English played basketball overseas and has his own international connections as well.
“I think every country in the world has an embassy a few miles away,” English said, referring to Mason’s proximity to Washington, D.C. “Wherever you are, in the nation, in the world, you can find your people here in the DMV.”
Mason President Gregory Washington was pleased to find a rising young coach to head the university’s highest-profile athletic team. He said hiring English, who served as an assistant at Tulsa, Colorado and Tennessee, is just another example of the university’s penchant for spotting talent.
“Mason’s story in the end is one of finding talent,” Washington said. “We discover talent wherever it is and we bring that talent into our classroom, and we graduate that talent toward success. This is one of the youngest, hot, successful coaches out there.
“But we kind of take solace in the fact that we discovered him first,” Washington added with a laugh, “and we made this happen early.”
The university didn’t dial back expectations for their new hire, preceding the press conference with a stirring video of the team’s legendary run to the Final Four in 2006. Several players from that team were on hand, and English namechecked them and their achievements in detail.
“I revere those guys with the utmost respect,” he said.
English is the same age that Rick Barnes was when he became Mason’s head coach in 1987. English coached under Barnes the past two seasons at the University of Tennessee. Mason Vice President/Director of Athletics Brad Edwards credits long-time (and retiring) athletic department members Jay and Carolyn Marsh for maintaining close ties to Barnes. That relationship helped lead Mason to English.
“[Barnes’s] continued affinity for our university and wanting to do what was in its best interest really became clear,” said Edwards, who heard raves about English from the many major college head coaches and NBA executives he contacted during the coaching search.
Mason made three NCAA tournament appearances between 2006 and 2011 but none since. That is a goal for the program, and the role of Mason basketball transcends hanging championship banners, Washington said.
“A basketball program is so much more than March Madness,” he said. “A strong program serves as a beacon of light for our institution, for our community and for the university in general. Often it represents the first light that many in our community will see when they gaze upon George Mason University.”